21 December 2014

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Training Matters: NCTJ accreditation – an editor’s view

Ben Green has worked in journalism for 10 years and is currently the editor of the Worksop Guardian, Gainsborough Standard, and Retford Guardian.

As well as being an NCTJ accreditation panellist, Ben is also involved in focus groups for production journalism and video journalism.

In this week’s blog, he gives an insight into what happens on an accreditation visit and explains why he gives up his time to be involved in the work of the NCTJ.

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In June I sat on an NCTJ accreditation panel for the first time.

It was an interesting and very worthwhile experience: it is great to get into these training centres and universities and see what they are doing to nurture the journalism talent of tomorrow.

The accreditation visits are quite an intense few hours, and are well structured so that the panel is able to fully scrutinise all aspects of the course we are accrediting, or not, as the case may be.

Our day started with a quick meet and greet over coffee with course leaders and tutors, and after the introductions were made the panel sat in private for a short time.

During this private session we went through the previous accreditation report as well as evidence course leaders had provided to us in advance on the structure of the course. This discussion enabled us to put together some questions to fire at the course leader and his team.

This tough questioning, and it was tough, went on for well over an hour. This wasn’t some jolly where a group of current and former hacks sat around sentimentally reminiscing about the old days. It was very serious business, maybe not quite as fierce as The Apprentice or Dragons’ Den, but not far off.

It was good to spend this large chunk of time with the course team and quiz them on the points we’d highlighted during our initial panel discussion.

After more than an hour of questioning we all had a quick lunch before meeting some of the students and asking them some questions about the course. Then, after a guided tour of the facilities, the panel once again met in private.

We discussed what we had learned that day and put together some recommendations for the course. Once these had been agreed, we then gave a thorough feedback session to the course leader and his team.

After any accreditation visit, the head of accreditation completes a panel report which goes to the NCTJ’s accreditation board, drawn from all parts of the industry, for approval.

It was a challenging and intense day but also really enjoyable. I was impressed that these accreditation visits really do intensely scrutinise the courses these institutions are offering.

So why do I think it is important and worthwhile to give up my time to take part on NCTJ accreditation panels? Simple. As an editor I have a vested interested in ensuring journalism students are getting the training that will equip them for life in a modern-day newsroom.

The rate of change in the industry currently is more rapid than at any point in recent memory, so it vital that journalism training keeps up. I think it is crucial that course leaders and tutors make a real effort to keep up to date with what is happening in newsrooms – by actually going into them and seeing how they are now set up and operate.

And having editors going into these institutions, scrutinising them, and giving feedback is vital for ensuring these courses keep up to speed.

That’s why I would encourage any editor to get involved with the NCTJ’s accreditation panels.

Editors and senior journalists who would like to help with accreditation visits should email NCTJ head of accreditation john.cary@nctj.com to express an interest.

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